X-Strike Studios, in memorium

After eleven years, X-Strike Studios is closing its doors.

You may have heard of them recently, or you may be a longtime fan.  Or you may never have heard of them.  That’s one of the struggles with being an independent artist.  Sometimes some of the best work goes unnoticed.

I don’t hesitate to apply the term ‘best’ to X-Strike Studios’ catalog.  While their films are definitely low-budget, that hasn’t held back their excellence.  If anything, it’s helped to underscore the talent and skill at play.  These are movies for a niche audience, by that same audience.  There’s no irony, there’s no multi-audience pandering, there’s no attempt to be anything that they’re not.  These are movies for gaming fans and nerds.  And the result is that they are some of the best video game movies ever made, hands down, bar none, damn straight.

But it isn’t some goofy love of games that makes their movies good.  River City Rumble, called ‘the Citizen Kane of video game movies’, is a solid (if low-budget) action movie that straddles the line between being serious enough to be internally consistent but not taking itself too seriously so as to deprive the fans of fun antics.  Silent Horror, and its sequel Resident Horror, are genuinely creepy at points while still providing a tremendous good time in every vein, something that their big budget imitators like the Resident Evil series fail to deliver.  Project Snake is an ambitious action story that some consider more entertaining than the games that inspired it.  Their Off-Campus series, while full of inside jokes, remains some of the funniest segments on the internet to this day.  And their most off-the-wall film P. Rappa’s Nth Mile is…a thing that exists.

X-Strike Studios came along at a time when video game films of pretty much any type were novelties.  The best video game movies available were studio-made behemoths like Street Fighter and the Super Mario Brothers movie, attempts made to appeal to general audiences with the after-thought of tapping into the video game fan market.  With the exception of a handful of Star Wars or Star Trek videos here and there, fan films hadn’t yet taken hold either.  There was no Street Fighter Legacy.  There was no Mortal Kombat Legacy.  No Megaman live-action.  And the idea of a video game-inspired fan film that was feature-length?  The very idea was unfeasible, a pipe dream fanboys talked about but knew wouldn’t happen.

And then X-Strike did it.  And then did it again.

Much like Troma Films, much like Robert Rodriguez’s early work, X-Strike Studios would establish a baseline from which other studios would be able to build their success.  An early pioneer of committed and dedicated fan films, X-Strike Studios would be a harbinger of what we know as the fan film industry today, an industry that continues to inspire and influence mainstream cinema.

It isn’t a surprise that X-Strike is closing its doors.  The assorted members had stated on numerous occasions they hadn’t planned for the company to endure indefinitely.  After all, it’s hard to maintain a consistent artistic vision from your early twenties into your mid-thirties, as most of the leadership has seen.  It’s a bittersweet announcement all the same because they’ve given the fan community so much entertainment.

Thank you, X-Strike Studios.

It’s All Skill

You can do a split right now.

No, really, you can.  Or rather, your body is capable of mechanically performing a split.  Russian (legs forward and back) or Chinese (legs out to the sides), doesn’t matter.  Your muscles, skin, and connective tissue have the flexibility to take that position.  What inhibits you is the pain reflex.

The pain reflex is an evolutionary tool that has allowed animals, mammals, and humans, to survive across the years.  It keeps us from pushing our boundaries too far by providing us with a warning when we start to approach our limit.  By and large, this is a good thing.  A very, very good thing.  It’s what keeps people alive.  We WANT this pain reflex.  It’s what causes us to jerk our hand away from the hot stove.

The trick however, is that we can calm the pain reflex down.  We can sooth it into being more precise.  But you don’t do this by sitting down and splitting your legs as wide as possible until it hurts.  That will cause the pain reflex to kick in even sharper.  Your body is panicking.  The way you do it is to sit down and split your legs as far as is comfortable…and then just a tiny bit farther.  Not even to the point of pain; just the point of the subtlest discomfort.  ‘Pleasantly stretching’.  And then go no further.  Stay there and breathe.  Relax.  And within seconds, the stretch will begin to subside.  You can then go a little bit farther until you feel the stretch again, or you can call it a day.  But do this every day and your body will discover that it can move wider and wider into the stretch without damage, without injury.  Your body learns to stop panicking.

Flexibility then, isn’t a physical feat that you build up to; it’s a skill you practice.  It’s something you can already do that you simply need to get better at.

Other ‘impossible’ things are the same way.  Can you draw a line?  Then you can become a master artist.  There’s no coordination involved with drawing; at least not that everyone who can sign their name doesn’t already have.  What is needed is practice.

Everything comes down to practice.  The innate abilities already exist inside of us; we just have to spend some time familiarizing ourselves with them and getting better at the skill in question.

Just about everything comes down to skill, a process and practice that can be performed and perfected gradually over time.

So, what skills do you want to master that you’ve thought were impossible?

Moving Day

I’ve lived in seven of the fifty states: Florida (twice), Texas, Tennessee (twice), South Carolina, Kentucky, Utah, and North Carolina (four times).  But this summer, I am moving yet again.  Actually, I’m moving twice.

I’ll be moving this June…somewhere.  We’re not entirely sure yet, though Asheville (North Carolina) is the current front runner.  Richmond Virginia is another possibility (so I could finally be RVA in RVA).  Places as far as Miami are being considered.  But that’s peanuts compared to the BIG move.

Around August, I will be moving to Scotland.

The current plan is I will be moving back and forth between the two locales annually.  The exact travel times will very, but let’s just say I’ll be in the USA 51% of the time.  The current window will put me returning to the USA in late December every year, in order to be back for the biggest party ever.  Since most of my conventions are between January and June, that’s the window I’ll be here.  The rest of the time, I’ll be in the highlands of Scotland.

So…yeah.  I don’t think this will impact my publishing and release schedules at all.  In fact, it’s been kind of frightening how little this is affecting.  I’ll still be carrying on most of my table-top role-playing games with the help of Skype (or similar programs).  Almost all of my work is done online, or over the phone.  So the impact should be minimal.  Just the location will be changing.

What an age we live in.  🙂

 

PS: Episode 02 of New Phase goes live this Friday!

Teach The Sky ReLaunch!

In November of 2002, I first launched TeachTheSky.com (this website).  In the intervening eleven plus years, it’s endured a year-long hiatus, seen the launch of ten serials, including the serialization of the Crossworld Saga.  It’s been a blog, a literary hub, and a host of other things.

But mostly, it’s been a journey for me as I try to wind my way through the labyrinth that is publishing.

Writing, you see, is easy.  Get a word processor – or hell, just a notepad – and write a story.  Boom!  You’re a writer.  Want to be a successful writer?  Sell that story to a friend for more than you paid for the notepad.  Seriously, that’s all it takes.  From that point, it’s just a matter of scale; of how many units you sell, how much profit, etc etc etc.

Publishing is a different beast.  Publishing is an industry, and one with all the flaws and loopholes of any large industry.  You have publishing houses, big and small, as well as agents and clubs and unions.  It’s all a big mess.  And as an independent author, it’s hard to sort through it all.  So I’ve tried to be open and transparent with what all I was doing.

But I also tried to maintain some artistic autonomy.  And thus, my serials.  At TeachTheSky.com, I have endeavored to produce literature and art that was entertaining.  I grew so very tired (so very quickly) of the publishing game that even as I pursued it, I wanted to further my art.  And thus, this website became not just a professional portfolio but also a means with which I was able to continue being a writer while I kept dealing with the trials and tribulations of being an author.  For the two are, thankfully, not one and the same.

 

In 2014, TeachTheSky.com will see the return of the serials.  The first episode of my newest serial will go live March 7th.  Currently, I will be updating every four weeks, but I expect that time span to quickly shrink.  I will also be publishing several novels in the coming year.  Everybody knows about Rhest for the Wicked (my first novel with Haven Publishing) and I continue to chip away at that, with resolution coming in the next few weeks.  But in the meantime, other novels are in the works.  They will be announced in the next few months, with releases before the end of the year.

It’s an exciting time.  I’m happy to share with you the art that I love so much to create.  I hope you enjoy it.  And now, please enjoy the new and improved (hopefully) TeachTheSky.com